Former US vice-president Mike Pence on Saturday said history will hold former president Donald Trump accountable for his role in the January 6th, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.
Mr Pence was in the Capitol when thousands of Trump supporters breached the building in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election, which Mr Trump lost to Joe Biden.
As the vice-president has the constitutional role of Senate president, Mr Pence was presiding over what had always been the ceremonial task of approving the votes of the electoral college to select the president and vice-president.
Throughout the siege, Mr Trump sent several tweets, one calling on Republicans to “fight” and others making false claims of voter fraud. He also criticised Mr Pence for certifying the results.
“President Trump was wrong,” Pence told assembled journalists and their guests at the Gridiron dinner, an annual white-tie event in Washington, DC.
“I had no right to overturn the election, and his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day, and I know that history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”
Mr Pence, who is considering a run for the Republican nomination for the 2024 presidential election, was taken to safety by law enforcement during the attack.
He rarely addressed January 6th in the months following the incident, but he has since upped his criticism of the rioters and the behaviour of his former boss that day.
He has sharply criticised Mr Trump’s conduct in recent media interviews, and in a memoir released in November, he accused the former president of endangering his family.
Mr Pence’s comments on Saturday were his most pointed to date.
“What happened that day was a disgrace,” he said. “And it mocks decency to portray it any other way. For as long as I live, I will never, ever diminish the injuries sustained, the lives lost, or the heroism of law enforcement on that tragic day.”
A spokesperson for Mr Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside business hours.
Since the two men left office, Mr Pence had criticised the former president’s behaviour but refrained from the most stinging rebukes of Mr Trump.
He also declined to co-operate with the House of Representatives committee investigating the Capitol attack, describing the work done by the mainly Democratic body as partisan.
Mr Pence’s remarks came just days after conservative television host Tucker Carlson aired security footage of the Capitol attack, claiming many of the rioters were “orderly”.
Mr Carlson’s depiction of the January 6th events was sharply criticised by Democrats and several high-profile Republicans in the Senate, though many other Republicans – particularly in the House – shrugged off the episode. – Reuters